Joan Garry

I Get By With a Little Help From My Coach

“The very best coaches are compassionate truth tellers. And the very best leaders can hear that truth and make the adjustments necessary to improve their skills as leaders and managers.” Atul Gawande, MD in his TED Talk , “Want To Get Great At Something? Get a Coach!”

It’s tough out there in the nonprofit world. Between raising money, managing staff, overseeing programs, dealing with your board, and a myriad of other priorities, it can get pretty crazy for a leader. When do you know that you need a coach to help guide you through some of life’s ups and downs?

Joan Garry’s recent post in the Chronicle of Philanthropy sheds some light on the myths that many leaders (and boards) have about who needs a coach. Spoiler alert: every leader could use one! Whether you’re a newly-hatched ED or CEO or one who’s departing, whether your organization is doing well or floundering, whether you think you have the money or not, coaches can and should be part of the mix.

I encourage you to read Joan’s post and watch Dr. Gawande’s talk. And then let me know how I can help you become the best leader you can be.


This week, I'm spotlighting a great post from Joan Garry with a list of the ten nonprofit blogs you should be following. Maybe mine will make the list someday...a girl can hope!

It's Time for Your Yearly Physical

It's Spring! And it's time for your checkup. Your organizational checkup. Time for a peek under the hood to assess how healthy it is. Here we go...

First, do you have a good CEO/Board Chair relationship? Joan Garry believes that this is the single most important sign of organizational health. Do you both understand your roles? Are you partners in your strategic analysis of the organization?

Does your organization have a strong strategic plan? It doesn't have to be a written plan. It doesn't have to be "fancy." But strategy does need to be a vital part of what the Board develops and oversees.

Is there a culture of philanthropy? Does everyone in the organization- Board, staff, volunteers, stakeholders- participate in supporting the organization through fundraising and telling the story of your organization's impact?

Speaking of storytelling, does everyone in the organization know how to articulate the mission, vision and values? By doing this, they can communicate your  organization's impact in transformative ways.

Is your staff motivated and engaged? Are they working well as a team and as individuals? Are they happy?

Finally, do you have sustainability and succession plans in place? Creating a sustainable future involves setting both short and long-term goals and diversification of resources. It also includes leadership cultivation, which is why a succession plan is essential.

Asking yourself these questions, and being honest about where you might need some improvement, is the key to your organizational health. Start now!

Please be in touch with me at for help with making your organization the healthiest it can be!

Difficult Times, Difficult Conversations

The world seems like a strange place to many of us right now. There's so much uncertainty, anger, sadness and anxiety. It's impossible for these emotions not to affect us as we go through our day and communicate with others. People are wrapped up in events outside of their direct control, and many times we're not paying enough attention to what's in front of us. We are not listening enough to each other! I believe that the work I and many of my colleagues and friends are doing is helping to protect and repair the world. And I believe if we are to accomplish this in these troubled times, we are going to have to work together more and listen to each other better.

While I was thinking this, I happened upon a recent blog by Joan Garry, one of my favorite nonprofit professionals. In  a podcast she did with Parisa Parsa, they discuss what's happening now in our country, and how we can communicate more effectively to make our work together easier and more meaningful. It's a great conversation, and so important for us to hear right now.

Take a listen here. Enjoy!



What Can You Do?

For many of us, it's been a crappy week. It has been difficult to find the hope. It has been scary to try to reassure our families and ourselves that things will ever feel "normal" again. There have been many tears and not enough laughter. I don't have an answer for when we are going to feel better, but I wanted to share some of the things I've been doing that have helped me move forward, even incrementally.

First, friends and family are essential. We can make it through anything if we have the love and support around us.

Second, although Facebook has been a mixed bag of hate and hope, I have found the strength and the spirit of activism from my network to be important. We are going to need this! And, there have been some posts that have made me smile, if not actually laugh out loud. And photos of cute puppies. That helps.

Music has been a healing force for me. I've had the "Hamilton" soundtrack on replay for the past week (to be honest, it's been on replay since it was released, but no less helpful!). In addition to being simply amazing, there are weird similarities to the recent campaign and election.

I want to give a shout-out to two articles among the dozens I've read in the past few days.  One is a blog by Joan Garry, a nonprofit consultant I follow, about what really matters right now. The other is a column from Lion's Roar, a Buddhist website. While I am not a Buddhist, the commentary gave me some peace.

As a nonprofit professional, I find that doing my work brings me great satisfaction and joy. Helping to bring about change in the world is a powerful way to have impact and regain some control.

We can all have an impact. Whatever you do to find your path, I wish you peace in the coming days, as it all unfolds.




Creating a Circle of Safety

Joan Garry wrote a great blog a few weeks ago, "The Top 10 Books Every Nonprofit Leader Should Read." I was pleased to see that I'd read several of them, and I added a few to my to-read list.  One of the books, Simon Sinek's newest, Leaders Eat Last, will likely be on Joan's next Top 10 list. Sinek writes that true leaders create an organization that makes all of its members feel safe, so that they work together with trust and cooperation and are better able to face external threats and seize the opportunities before them. This "circle of safety" enables people to achieve together things that none of them could achieve alone. It also allows people to feel inspired and fulfilled by their work, rather than threatened or useless. Sinek says that organizations built around this conceptual framework are more stable and perform better across the board.

One of the more important points for me was that the circle only works if it is all-inclusive. That is, leaders don't just protect their managers and leave other people out. It's about protecting everyone, creating the environment that fosters trust and cooperation. And that, my friends, leads to organizations accomplishing great things-  together.

For more, watch Sinek's TED talk. And get in touch with me at


Listen to This!

One of the nonprofit gurus I follow is Joan Garry, and she's just unveiled a new podcast series, Nonprofits Are Messy that is great. It's already the #1 nonprofit podcast on iTunes! After only a week! Joan has had a weekly blog covering everything under the nonprofit umbrella- how to be a great Executive Director, what the roles and responsibilities of board members are, the secret to effective fundraising, and many more juicy topics. The podcast goes even further, by bringing in other nonprofit experts (like another of my gurus, Vu Le) to give deeper insights into the crazy nonprofit world.

I encourage you to take a listen!

Having a Bad Day?

Sometimes it's because it's Monday.  Sometimes it's because you didn't sleep well.  Sometimes it's just because you're having too many minor- or major- hassles at work.  And sometimes it's JUST BECAUSE.  You're having a bad day. It happens. It's not easy being a leader, responsible for others as well as for fulfilling a mission. One of the nonprofit experts I follow, Joan Garry, has a wonderful blog about what to do when you're feeling a bit wobbly about things.  Read it and have a better tomorrow!